Syria missile not aimed at reactor: Israel

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A Syrian missile that reached deep into Israeli territory and set off air raid sirens near the country's top-secret nuclear reactor was the result of a misfire and not a deliberate attack, the Israeli military says.

The missile landed in southern Israel early on Thursday, prompting Israel to respond with air strikes on the missile launcher and other targets in Syria.

The army's chief spokesman, Brigadier General Hidai Zilberman, was quoted as telling military correspondents the Israeli air force was already operating in Syrian airspace when the anti-aircraft missile was fired.

He said the projectile, identified as a Russian-made SA-5 missile, missed its target and exploded in southern Israel.

The missile, also known as an S200, set off air raid sirens in a village near Dimona, the southern desert town where Israel's nuclear reactor is located, and about 300 kilometres south of Damascus.

"There was no intention of hitting the nuclear reactor in Dimona," Zilberman was quoted as saying.

An Israeli missile-defence system tried but failed to intercept the incoming missile. Defence Minister Benny Gantz said the incident was under investigation.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly launched air strikes at Syria, including at military targets linked to foes Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, both allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Such strikes routinely draw Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Thursday's exchange was unusual because the Syrian projectile landed deep inside Israel.

Syria's state news agency SANA said the exchange began with an Israeli air strike on Dumeir, a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

Dumeir is believed to house Syrian army installations and batteries as well as bases and weapons depots belonging to Iran-backed militias. SANA said four soldiers were wounded.

The exchange comes amid growing tensions between Israel and Iran, which maintains troops and proxies in Syria.

Iran has accused Israel of attacks on its nuclear facilities, including sabotage at Natanz on April 11, and vowed revenge.

The exchange of fire also threatened to complicate US-led attempts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, to which Israel is deeply opposed.